Step 1: Get the petition.
To file for an order of protection in Arkansas, go to the county courthouse in the county where you live, where the abuse took place, or where the abuser may be served (given paperwork related to the case).1 Find the civil clerk of court and ask for a petition for an order of protection. You can find a list of courts on the AR Courthouse Locations page. You can also find links to the forms online by going to AR Download Court Forms.
You may also be able to obtain these forms by calling a local domestic violence organization or legal aid office. Most domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers. Click on the Places that Help page for a list of state and local programs and legal resources.
Tell the civil clerk of court that you want to file a petition for an order of protection. If you are in immediate danger, tell the clerk that you also want a temporary (ex-parte) order of protection.
1 Ark. Code § 9-15-201(b)
Step 2: Carefully fill out the necessary forms.
On the petition, you are the “petitioner” and the abuser is the “respondent.” Write briefly about the most recent incident(s) of violence, using descriptive language - words like “slapping,” “hitting,” “grabbing,” “threatening,” “choking,” etc. - that fits your situation. Be specific.
When giving your address, you may want to give a safe mailing address and phone number or ask the clerk if you can keep this information confidential if you don’t want the abuser to know where you are staying.
If you need assistance filling out the forms, you may be able to ask the clerk for help. Some courts may have an advocate that can assist you. Another option is to find help through a local domestic violence organization – see our AR Advocates and Shelters page. A clerk or advocate can show you which blanks to fill in, but they cannot help you decide what to write. You will find links to the court forms on our AR Download Court Forms page or from the courthouse in your area.
Be sure to sign the forms in front of a notary or a clerk. Remember to bring some form of photo identification if you have it since this may be necessary to have your petition notarized in court.
Step 3: The ex parte hearing.
Give your forms to the clerk. S/he will then give them to the judge who may or may not want to speak to you. Only a judge can review your petition for (and give you) a temporary (ex parte) order of protection if you requested one. The judge can give you a temporary order of protection if s/he finds that:
- You are in immediate and present danger of domestic abuse; or
- That the respondent (the abuser) is scheduled to be released from prison within 30 days, and there will be an immediate and present danger of domestic abuse when s/he is released.1
Whether or not you get a temporary order of protection, the clerk will tell you when to come back for your court hearing, within 30 days (assuming your case is not dismissed for some reason). The clerk should write down when and where your hearing will be on the copies of your court forms.
1 Ark. Code § 9-15-103(a)
Step 4: Service of process.
The abuser must be served, or given papers that tell him/her about the hearing date and your temporary order of protection (if the judge gave you one). Service must be completed at least 5 days before the scheduled date of the hearing.1
The clerk will either send the order to the police or have you bring it to the police yourself. The police will then find the abuser and serve him/her notice of the temporary order (if the judge gave you one) as well as the scheduled hearing date. Please visit our AR Sheriff Departments page for more information on serving court papers. Do not attempt to serve the papers to the abuser yourself.
Note: If you were unable to have the abuser served before the court date, you can ask the judge for a new hearing date and another temporary order of protection.
1 Ark. Code § 9-15-2014(b)(1)(A)
You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?
Step 5: Go to your court hearing.
Whether a judge grants you a temporary order or not, you may be given a court date for a court hearing on your petition within 30 days (assuming that your petition is not dismissed). The hearing will be in front of a judge, who will decide whether or not to give you a final order of protection.
It is very important that you attend the court hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire and you will have to start the process over. If you absolutely cannot attend, contact the court immediately and ask how you can get a “continuance” for a later court date.
If the abuser does not attend the hearing, the court may issue a “default judgment” against him/her and you may receive a final order of protection in his/her absence. The judge also may decide to pick a new hearing date to give the abuser another chance to come to court. If this happens, be sure to ask the judge to extend your temporary order if you have one.
At the hearing, you will have the chance to testify in court and present evidence and witnesses to prove the abuse and harassment you have experienced. The abuser will also be allowed to be present evidence and testify in the hearing to defend himself/herself. You may want to get a lawyer to represent you at that hearing, especially if you think the abuser will have one. Go to our AR Finding a Lawyer page for a listing of free and paid lawyers. If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, you can visit our At the Hearing section for ways that you can show the judge that you were abused. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section.